By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
This is not another crime series, prison show or even an average story on an innocent’s man fight for justice. For Life, a new show on ABC unveils the corruption in the entire criminal justice system and unveils its tragic affects on prisoners and their families.
Starring Nichola Pinnock (Aaron Wallace) and Joy Bryant (Maria Wallace), the show is based off the real-life story of Isaac Wright Jr., an executive producer of the series who was wrongfully convicted in 1991, spent years in prison, represented himself in order to get his charges dropped and ultimately went on to become a lawyer, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
On Feb. 6, Pinnock, Bryant, Wright Jr., show creator and executive producer Hank Steinberg and Doug Robinson, another executive producer, were present for the D.C. screening of For Life at the Landmark E Street Cinema in Northwest, Washington, D.C.
In a conversation moderated by ESPN’s “The Undefeated” journalist Clinton Yates, the cast and crew discussed For Life’s honest portrayal of the criminal justice system and how prisoners and their families must cope post conviction.
“I think that throughout the entire season, Maria was in a state of longing. He’s there, but he’s not there. She’s right in front of him, but she can’t really touch him,” Bryant said. “In a flashback…he’s behind glass most of the time, and the only way to touch is through the glass. So this constant longing and wanting to be connected to him, and no matter how close he is, he’s just not close enough. That was the entire season. It was heavy.”
Having lived the life of a wrongfully convicted prisoner, Wright Jr. knows firsthand the difficulties a family faces when a loved one is in prison. He emphasized how the show makes families’ challenges clear, adding to the honesty and engaging nature of the narrative.
“The thing that makes this series a very, very special one, is the very thing that most people are going to grab hold of, and that is, what happened to me wasn’t just my tragedy, it was a family tragedy. The suffering of family is more devastating than the suffering of that one person- although it multiplies their suffering because anyone that’s in prison, they’re the nucleolus of their family. They’re the ones that help put bread on the table,” Wright Jr. said passionately. “When that person is taken away and the family begins to implode and they witness the collateral damage from inside, and in addition to that they have to stay strong and keep the fight going, there is something that happens that you begin to look and pay attention to other people’s suffering when you’ve done it yourself- that is what this series does. It portrays the reflection of America. It portrays the reflection of our suffering.”
While working to represent himself to prove his innocence and drop his life sentence was the fight of his life, Wright Jr. exclaimed he got his courage to battle from another warrior.
“I was raised in a military family. My father served in the military for over 30 years. He fought in two wars and I’d listen to my mother cry herself to sleep when the call of duty took him away from us and left her alone with six kids,” Wright Jr. said, with his father in the audience. “And so when I fought, I wasn’t fighting for myself, I fought for my family, because I wasn’t going to let them do to my father’s son what they were doing without a fight. These are the sacrifices we make.”